As Quillblog recently reported, Nicole Rycroft, the executive director of Markets Initiative, took part in a pro-Tibetan demonstration late last week wherein she and four others spread a banner that read “Free Tibet” over an Olympic billboard in Beijing.
Rycroft was arrested and immediately sent home to Vancouver. She recounted her experience for Quillblog today.
We unfurled a banner at about six o’clock in the morning, Beijing time, on Friday to bring attention to the continuing grave human rights situation in Tibet…. We needed to remain flexible [regarding the location] because security is very tight in Beijing at the moment…. The billboard [we chose] was outside the China Central Television building. That building is very striking architecturally and is part of the modern face of China. You see it a lot in new promotional material about Beijing, and also its being the CCTV building is symbolic from a freedom of speech perspective because it’s the [centre for] state-controlled media, or propaganda mouthpiece, of the Chinese regime.
I rappelled down the front of the billboard alongside the banner and another climber, Phil from the U.K., rappelled down the other side of the banner. We were down stabilizing the banner because it was very gusty, probably for 25 minutes to half an hour. The CCTV building is on a fairly major thoroughfare in downtown Beijing. There were probably 20 or 30 police in front of the billboard, and most of those had cameras or video cameras. There were a couple of international film crews. On the back side of the billboard where the scaffolding was there were another 15 to 20 police and then an equal number of paramilitary personnel that arrived on the scene. We had two people on the ground on the back side and a support person on the top to make sure our ropes stayed safe.
[We decided to come down] when the plainclothed police reached the top. Our support person at the top gave us a very clear signal that it was time to come up. At that point, we weren’t in danger, but it was clear that we needed to move.
We were treated well. Obviously, the Chinese authorities are handling this quite smartly. There’s obviously a lot of international attention on ¦ the Chinese government and how they will be treating dissenting voices.
I was held for six or seven hours and then I was put on a plane that I had already booked for that afternoon…. The support I’ve received on returning home has been very heartwarming. I’ve been really appreciative “ from small notes to phone calls… But really, […] as an individual, as a person of conscience, as a former athlete, I was willing to put my personal safety on the line to bring world attention to the situation in Tibet. It’s terrible “ people are being tortured, Tibetans are literally dying for the most basic human rights. More than six million have been engaged in a non-violent struggle for their independence and their homeland for more than 60 years. Largely, the rest of the world has watched the Chinese military machine roll over the Tibetan people…. I’m under no illusion that things are going to change overnight in Tibet, but if we look back on history, change does happen.
Another interview with Rycroft can be found on The Tyee‘s website.